Why do Men Prefer Long Hair?

Happy couple with the woman wearing her hair long
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Women spend a great deal of time, money, and attention making their hair as attractive as possible. While this effort is often made in order to make a woman feel more confident, it also serves to make her more attractive to men.
Fashion and beauty magazines offer tips and advice on how women can make their hair as appealing as possible to men. While all men vary in preferences, the majority of men report preferring long hair on women. "I think men like it because it's more feminine," explains one college student. "I love running my fingers through my girlfriend's hair."
Hairstyle preferences are often thought to be a result of cultural norms and expectations. According to this theory, men's preference for long hair is due to the fact that long hair requires substantial commitment of money, time, and daily care. Such factors would indicate that a woman has a good financial status, self-respect, and concern for her overall health and wellbeing. Men may find women with longer hair more attractive because these characteristics are desirable qualities in a partner.
However, this preference for long hair goes beyond social or cultural expectations for women's beauty. Research has demonstrated that there is an evolutionary reason for men to prefer long hair to short hair in women. According to evolutionary theory, features considered attractive by the opposite gender serve as indicators of reproductive fitness. Experiments and observations have demonstrated that a woman's hair plays a major role in how men rate a woman's attractiveness.
The quality and length of hair serve as a marker of genetic strength and overall health. Several studies have demonstrated that men find women with medium-length to long hair more attractive than their shorter-haired counterparts. Men also rate women with longer hair as healthier and fitter than women with shorter hair.
In one study published in the research journal Human Nature, researchers found that women who had originally been rated by a test group as being less attractive were rated far more highly when shown with a longer hairstyle. The experimenters concluded that longer hairstyles increase women's attractiveness in part because longer hair helps to disguise less desirable features. Long hair tends to make the jawline slimmer and less prominent, drawing attention away from undefined cheekbones. Also, as described by many men, long hair contributes to a more feminine and youthful appearance.
Couple looking at hairstyles in a fashion magazine
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Of course, men are not ruled by evolutionary biases and many men report preferring short hair to long hair. Shorter hair that is healthy and lustrous is better than having long hair that is damaged and unkempt. Whatever the length, maintaining your hair's healthy appearance is the best way to ensure your partner or potential partner will appreciate the beauty of your hair.
In the past, women were often expected to cut their hair short once they reached a certain age. A woman over 40 is often pressured by female friends to get a shorter haircut that is considered more "appropriate" for her age. Given the abundance of data indicating that men prefer longer hair, why do women feel this pressure to go shorter? It is possible that since these women already have a partner and children, they feel less pressure to maintain a hairstyle that is considered indicative of reproductive health.
However, recent changes in cultural norms have led to an increase in long hair among women over age 40. An important factor is that many women are marrying later in life and waiting until they are older to have children. Fashion magazines have become more inclusive and less concerned with perpetuating age stereotypes. Several magazines geared towards middle-aged women and show a diverse range of models, including older women with long hair.
The popular television show "Desperate Housewives" boasts a number of women over 40, all of whom have long hair. Fashion's current emphasis on ultra-feminine styles is also believed to contribute to this increase in hair length. By seeing longer-haired women reflected in popular culture, women feel less pressure to follow outdated expectations of what is considered age-appropriate.
Despite these changes, many women prefer shorter hair and often have good reasons for choosing a shorter style. Many women experience hair loss or thinning as they age, and a shorter hairstyle is often more flattering and helps hair look healthier and fuller.
Whatever length you choose, keeping your hair healthy and well-cared for will ensure that men find your hair attractive. While men may report preferring long hair, it takes more than long locks to make a great relationship.